Prayer

St. Augustine

Augustine
Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saint Augustine's restless search for truth and love ended when he found Christ. 

Putting aside those modern interpreters who view Augustine as overly prudish or harsh, his writings are filled with love of Christ and an emphasis on the anticipated joys of heavenly beauty.

His passion for Christ and His Church burned even on his deathbed as the gates of Hippo were besieged by barbarians.

Perhaps his most famous quote is also his best:

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O God.


St. Louis IX of France, Holy Cross Window Saint

Louis
St. King Louis IX of France was to all accounts a man of exemplary piety and sincere faith. He led two Crusades to regain control of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and died of illness during the second. He promoted the ecclesial reforms of the Dominicans and Franciscans. Whether or not he actually became a Franciscan tertiary is not certain, but it was for his support of the Franciscan Order that our window was originally installed in the Church of St. Francis in Philadelphia.

He is shown garbed in a robe with the royal symbol, fleur-de-lis and his earthly crown, holding not a scepter of power or an orb, but the Cross of Christ.

 

 


Saint Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr

 

statue of St. Bartholomew
Statue of St. Bartholomew in St. John Lateran

With the same irony that names St. Bartholomew patron saint of tanners, the Church selects a reading from St. John's gospel, the only gospel which does not use the name Bartholomew to celebrate his feast day.  Philip, paired with Bartholomew in the three synoptic gospels, is paired with Nathaniel in John's gospel. Hence one of the reasons some scholars posit Nathaniel and Bartholomew as the same person.

 

One of the traditions concerning Bartholomew is that he was martyred by being skinned or flayed alive. This was the favorite depiction in art since the Renaissance and he is often shown holding the knife by which he was flayed in one hand and his own skin in the other. You may recall that historians speculate that the face on the flayed skin St. Bartholomew holds in Michelangelo's Last Judgment is actually a self-portrait by the artist.

Today we can celebrate Bartholomew's intellectual curiosity to explore the truth, his gift of faith to apprehend it when he met Jesus, and his zeal and enthusiasm to have this faith change not only his life but the life of the world. How sorely we need a thirst for truth in today's society where truth has been cynically discarded for "my story." So many have either despaired that there really is any truth, or have given up even looking for it.  Rational discourse has been replaced by dramatic, interpretive monologue.

Let us ask for the energy and courage St. Bartholomew had to spread the message that Christ is the "Way, the Truth and the Life."

 


Justice or Mercy

PicketToday's gospel reminds us that we do not have a lock on God's loving concern or a veto over God's lavish giving.

A covenant is not simply a contract. For one thing, it is unbreakable - not rendered void by the action of one party. This is an important teaching not only for couples about to marry in the Church, but something for us to consider whenever we're led into anger or resentment because of God's forgiveness or mercy towards others.

The vineyard owner's question to the laborers "Are you envious because I am generous?" is a good one for us too.

 


Eclipse of Faith?

For a moment today, the sun will be darkened by planetary motions which scientists can predict even if not fully understand.

Shutterstock_475042897Faith in things unseen is a fundamental principle of the Christian view of the world. Religious faith is more complicated than having faith that the sun is still there even when we can’t see it. It’s a belief in things that cannot be seen or measured, but are nevertheless real – a spiritual world exists too. We can know enough about this realm using our human reason alone to agree on a public morality which should allow us to live in mutual respect and peace.

Through Divine Revelation, we believe that higher truth has been revealed through the Scripture and Sacred Tradition of the Church, enabling us to profess our faith in the Nicene Creed we pray every week at Mass.

Saints and spiritual writers encourage us to keep the faith during times of personal faith eclipse – times in our lives when God may seem absent and our spirits dark. When such feelings persist, St. John of the Cross called them the “Dark Night of the Soul.” We learn much about God and move into closer union with God, not by fleeing the dark night, but by learning to find God in the dark. Faith that God is near, even when we can’t see.


St. Pius X and Holy Communion

HolyCommunionPope St. Pius X promoted both frequent, even daily, reception of Holy Communion for adults and ensured that the practice of the Church was to welcome children to First Communion and First Penance when they had reached the age of reason, age seven.

They need not have a perfect understanding of Holy Eucharist, but merely an understanding that the Eucharistic Bread is different from ordinary bread and to receive it with a degree of piety and reverence appropriate for their age. 

The Pope called the reception of Holy Communion the "surest, easiest, shortest way" to heaven.

 


Saint Helena, Empress

Saint Helena's statue in the Vatican
St. Helena in St. Peter's

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Helena, an important saint in the church and in the iconography of our own parish.

St. Helena, whose son battled his way to imperial power ultimately under the banner of the Christian cross, was brought to the imperial court by her son and deputed to search for sites important to Christians in the Holy Land. Well into her senior years, she directed the demolition of pagan shrines often built over these sites and undertook excavations in Jerusalem which ultimately uncovered the True Cross, the tomb of Jesus and other precious relics.

Her pilgrimage and building opened the way for countless other pilgrims through the centuries to make the difficult journey to the holy sites in and around Jerusalem.

Travel pilgrimages survive today as a form of devotion, though usually not as perilous as those of yesteryear. The journey theme itself, however, is still an important metaphor for the life of Christian discipleship: we begin our challenging journey in this life in the footsteps of Jesus and follow His Way to the heavenly Kingdom. 

St. Helena's energy and enthusiasm for new projects in her senior years, her resilience of spirit following her divorce by her husband and her hope to search for the unseen can be inspirations for us today. We too, should revere Jesus' memory and the places he trod during His earthly life.

Let us ask her protection on life's journey as we follow Jesus on The Way.

 

 


Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us


The Balance ScalesWhat interesting Scripture readings for mass this morning. The first reading recounts Joshua's passage through the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant and the entire people of Israel, mirroring Moses' passage through the Red Sea - both leading the people to the Promised Land.

The gospel is from Matthew, whose gospel is carefully constructed around Mosaic themes, depicting Jesus as the "New Moses," who fulfills the Old Covenant and forms a new Covenant with his people. Like Moses and Joshua, but surpassing them both, Jesus leads them into the Kingdom of God.

The parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that old rules no longer apply in the New Kingdom. The "lex talionis" or eye-for-an-eye is an overly rigorous expression of justice. Instead, we should show the same freely given forgiveness Jesus issues to us to our brothers and sisters in return.

Today, some grudge, resentment or unpaid debt will surely come to mind before Communion. Let us ask Jesus to help us release it, for in doing so we not only release our debtor, but our own spirit too. If we can't find the forgiveness in our own heart yet, we can surely find it in the Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 


The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

In 1950 Pius XII infallibly defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, a belief already held by Catholics and many other Christians since the early days of the church. The dogma deliberately leaves open the question of whether Mary suffered death before her assumption prevented bodily deterioration. 

In 2005 on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary,  the statue of Our Lady of Grace which stands atop our Carriage House was dedicated in Mary's honor and with prayers that she intercede for our parish and its people.

Dedication of Our Lady of Grace Statue at Holy Cross, Solemnity of the Assumption
Our Lady Of Grace at Holy Cross Church Rumson


St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity

Saints in Heavenly CloudsWhile canon lawyers are still discussing the technical requirements of the Catholic church for being declared a martyr, we should not miss Maximilian Kolbe's heroic life of virtue long before he volunteered to take the place of a condemned man in a Nazi concentration camp. His self-sacrifice and service to others continued even in the bleak starvation bunker with his fellow prisoners.

Pope Francis' recent motu proprio, "Greater Love Than This" defined a new category of sainthood -an offering of life. Traditionally, the death of a martyr for the faith had to occur as a direct and immediate hatred for the Catholic faith on the part of the oppressor toward the victim. 

 “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Pope Francis, Majorem hac dilectionem.

 

 


Stormy Seas and Seawalking

bicycle riding, learning, parents, training wheels

I laughed when St. Peter's sinking

into the stormy waves

reminded me of learning

To ride a bike.

For my first brief solo flights

without training wheels, 

I was fine until I realized

Dad wasn’t holding on anymore.

And then...crash...right into the hedges!

 

 

This gospel is wonderful encouragement

as we strive to follow Jesus.

First, encouragement not to lose faith

For it is then we begin to sink.

       There’s a point at which

       All the books about prayer

       Can’t teach us to pray

       If we don’t begin to pray

       And then stop worrying

       If we’re doing it right.

Second, reassurance

That if we’re heading

In the right direction...toward Jesus

And following his commands

He won’t let us sink.

 

St. Augustine preached

A wonderful homily

On this gospel

On which we can reflect

After we realize that

Augustine asks us

To make, “Lord, I’m sinking.”

Is not always easy to admit.

But we need not keep

Up a bravado with God - 

A false front of security

And calm, even if done

For the sake of others.

God doesn’t require it.

You are not walking on the lake like Peter
but on another sea, for this world is a sea;
Trials its waves, temptations its storms,
and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don't be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
When the gale blows and the waves rise,
and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost,
cry out, 'Lord, I am sinking,'
and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.

St. Augustine via At The Edge of the Enclosure a wonderful resource for prayerful reflection on Scripture each Sunday.


Could St. Clare Watch Television With You?

TvPope Pius XII named St Clare, virgin and abbess,  patron saint of television due to her reported ability to "watch" mass on the wall of her room when she was unable to attend in the chapel due to illness. She had one of the earliest big screen televisions?

Her radical commitment to poverty, chaste living and prayer, especially in the Eucharist are counter-cultural images to our age of acquisition, sexual promiscuity and self-deification. 

Could we invite her to watch the television images we project on our walls?

 


Enough? Enough!

Loaves and Fishes

Many times we find ourselves asking the question, "Enough?"

If we fall under the spell of modern advertisers our answer is certainly "no." We become convinced no one can never have enough money or popularity or youth or time. When we find ourselves in this state of worry, the tone my parents used to signal an end to family bickering is appropriate - "Enough."

In prayer, we might approach God with an earnest plea for help or courage or assistance in carrying out a project, dealing with a difficulty or using a blessing. "Enough?"

Whatever the circumstance, God's grace is sufficient. There is enough mercy, enough love. God's gentle, reassuring answer through Christ,  "Enough!"


Parish Day of Recollection in Advent - December 5th at Saint Alfonso Retreat House

Save the date:                                         

Tuesday, December 5th    9:00 AM - 2:30 PM

Saint Alfonso Retreat House, West Long Branch

$ 35/person includes lunch and refreshments

Three Redemptorist priests will preach the retreat which concludes with Mass at 2:30 P.M.

Confession will be available.

 

 

                


Art, Film, Faith and Prayer

ImageImage Journal is always an interesting collection of prose, poetry and art, but the summer issue deals with film, specifically life changing, meaningful film

It's not specifically Christian, so there are the usual articles against hierarchical and organized religion, but these are occasional and can usually be avoided easily should the reader choose. 

In the summer film issue, notable writers and directors give their recommendations for must-see films of faith. Even reading the story lines of the recommended movies gives much food for thought.

 

 

 

 

 

  Film
For Christian reviews and recommendations, check out Josh Larsen's Movies are Prayers or visit a website he edits, Think Christian . Larsen's reviews are insightful and in the spirit of mainstream Christian thinking.
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